Right to Know Policy
On January 1, 2009, a new Right to Know Law (the "RTKL") took effect in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under this statute, public records of the City of Pittsburgh are generally available to citizens who request them.
The following outlines the basic provisions of the RTKL and the procedures for making a request for records:
I. PUBLIC RECORDS
The Right to Know Law defines a public record as information, regardless of physical form, which documents a transaction or activity of the City, and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the City. A record is NOT a public record if:
- it is exempt from disclosure under Section 708(b) of the RTKL; or
- it is exempt from disclosure under any other Federal of State law, or regulation or judicial order or decree; or
- it is protected by a privilege.
Generally, public records are to be open for inspection or duplication in accordance with the RTKL. Records are to be provided in the medium requested if they exist in that medium. Otherwise, they are to be provided in the medium in which they exist. The RTKL does not require the City to give computer access to any requester.
When responding to a request, the City is not required to create a record that does not presently exist. Nor is the City required to compile, maintain, format, or organize a record in a manner in which the City does not currently maintain, format, or organize the record.
II. MAKING A REQUEST
All Right to Know requests for information ("requests") must be submitted to the Open Records Officer ("ORO") of the City of Pittsburgh:
There are four ways to request a public record from the City: 1) In person; 2) By mail; 3) By e-mail; and 4) By fax. Requests may be verbal or written. However, if a verbal request is denied by the City, there is no right of appeal.
The Right to Know Law does not require the City to accept requests made by telephone, and the City will refuse to accept requests made by telephone. The Right to Know Law also does not require the City to accept anonymous requests, and the City will refuse to accept anonymous requests. For the purpose of this section, an e-mail request which does not contain a proper name or street address will be treated as an anonymous request.
In order to meet the requirements of the Right to Know Law, the request must:
- Identify the records requested with sufficient specificity to enable the City to ascertain which records are being requested; and
- Include the name of the requester; and
- Include the address to which the City should direct its response.
The request need not state the reason that the records are being requested.
The City has chosen to use the Standard Request Form promulgated by the Pennsylvania Open Records Office. This form may be downloaded from the City website here, or from the website of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. A hard-copy form may also be obtained from the City's ORO at the address above.
The City may deny "disruptive requests," which occur when a requester repeatedly requests the same record. However, the requester is not precluded from requesting a different record.
III. THE CITY'S RESPONSE TO A RIGHT TO KNOW REQUEST
Although individual City departments shall be required to expeditiously forward requests inadvertently sent to them instead of directly to the ORO, the time period for the City's response will begin to run as of the documented receipt of the request by the ORO. Requests received after 4:30 p.m. shall be deemed to be received on the next business day.
Upon receipt of a request by the Open Records Officer, the City will make a good faith effort to determine whether the record requested is a public record, and whether the City has custody of the record. The City will respond as rapidly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request. However, the City will respond within five business days of the initial request. A "business day" shall be any weekday (Monday through Friday) except for official holiday closings or closings due to weather or natural disasters or due to the request of authorized public safety officials. Failure to respond within five business days will constitute a deemed denial of the request.
The RTKL does not require that the requester receive the City's response on the fifth business day. The City meets is obligations by mailing the response on the fifth business day.
The City will respond to each request in one of three ways:
- The City will grant the request in its entirety; or
- The City will deny the request; or
- The City will partially grant and partially deny the request.
There are circumstances set forth in the RTLK under which the City can take additional time to process a right to know request. The City is required to notify the requester in the "five day" letter which of these circumstances apply:
- The record must be redacted;
- The record must be retrieved from a remote location;
- A timely response is not possible due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations;
- A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record is a public record;
- The requester has not complied with the City's policies regarding access to records;
- The requester refuses to pay applicable fees;
- The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.
If the City requires additional time to process a right to know request, it must nevertheless make its initial response within the five business day period. The letter will indicate which of the reasons justify the additional time, and will project a target date by which the records will be made available. The City cannot take more than thirty additional days without the written consent of the Requester. If such permission is not granted and the City takes more than thirty days from the expiration of the five business day period, the request will be deemed denied on the thirty-first day.
If the City denies a request for information (in whole or in part), it will issue a denial letter which will include:
- A description of the record being requested;
- The specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority;
- The name, contact information, and signature of the Open Records Officer;
- The date of the request; and
- The procedure to appeal the denial of the request.
The City may charge reasonable fees for copying as well as its actual costs for postage in fulfilling a Right to Know request. These fees are posted on the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records website.
If copying fees do not exceed five dollars, the copies and postage will be provided free of charge as a courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh.
If copying fees exceed five dollars, the fees and postage must be pre-paid before the records will be provided. The fee can be paid by check or money order payable to:
c/o Open Records Office
313 City-County Building
414 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219
If the fees associated with a right to know request are anticipated to be greater than $100.00, the fees must be paid in advance before the City is obligated to compile the records.
Open Records Office
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120
The appeal must be made within fifteen business days of the City's denial or deemed denial, and must set forth the grounds on which the requester believes that the record is a public record, and the grounds for the denial by the City.
The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records will assign an appeals officer to the case, and the appeals officer will issue a decision within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal. The decision of the appeals officer may be appealed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
The City of Pittsburgh retains the discretion and authority to adopt any other written policies that are consistent with the Right to Know Law. Amendments to this policy will take effect upon publication on the City's website.
The City of Pittsburgh is committed to providing access to our website for individuals with disabilities. The City recognizes the importance of making our website accessible by everyone, regardless of their abilities.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from us, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the City.
External Link Policy
At various locations within the set of documents that are accessible over the Internet/World Wide Web and electronically "linked," and that belong to or were created by or with the permission of the City of Pittsburgh ("City"), however referred to (such as the City's "Internet homepage," "Web page," etc.), viewers or readers may access the Internet/World Wide Web "addresses" of various other organizations, or individuals not otherwise related to or associated with the City of Pittsburgh. Such "live" or "hot" connections ("links") to "external" Internet sites provide the ability to access material at those external sites that belongs to or is sponsored by those institutions, organizations, or individuals.
The ability to hot link to external sites is provided by the City of Pittsburgh strictly as a service to those accessing the City of Pittsburgh web site. Such external Internet sites contain information created, collected, published, maintained, posted or otherwise made available by institutions, organizations, or individuals independent of the City of Pittsburgh. The City of Pittsburgh does not endorse, approve, certify, review, or otherwise control in any way those external sites or the material contained therein. The City of Pittsburgh does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, usefulness, timeliness, or correct sequencing of any information or data located at or contained in such sites. Use of any information or data obtained from such sites is strictly voluntary, and is the sole risk and responsibility of the viewer or reader. Reliance on any such information or data should be undertaken only after an independent review of its accuracy, completeness, usefulness, timeliness, or correct sequencing.
Any trade marks, trade names, or service marks mentioned herein remain the property of their respective owners. At any linked external site, reference to any specific commercial product, service, or process whether by trademark, trade name, service mark, or otherwise does not constitute or imply in any way endorsement, recommendation or other favourable consideration by the City of Pittsburgh. Any such reference also does not necessarily signify that such reference has been permitted by the owner(s) or licensee(s) of such trademark, trade name, service mark, or by the referenced manufacturer, distributor, or otherwise.
The City of Pittsburgh is committed to protecting online users’ privacy. We believe that protection of personal privacy on the Internet is our responsibility, to assure user confidence, increase participation in online activities and support effective delivery of services. The City intends to give you as much control as possible over your personal information.
If you send us an electronic mail message with a question or comment that contains personally identifying information, or fill out a form that e-mails us this information, we will only use the personally identifiable information to respond to your request and analyze trends. We may redirect your message to another government agency or person who is in a better position to answer your question.
- Information that we collect for statistical purposes.
- We automatically collect electronically generated information about your visit to our site, such as the date, type of browser used, and technical Internet protocol data.
- We collect this information about each user session from our user logs, and refer to it in summary form for statistical purposes only.
- Information that you provide us when using our interactive forms and functions.
- This information may include such things as name, address, telephone number, and other personal and business data, depending on the particular service you use.
- We collect only that data necessary to provide the service that you are requesting.
- We do not use "persistent" cookies to collect permanent information.
- We do use "non-persistent" cookies in applications that keep track of a user’s online session and make it possible for you to complete a form or use a function, but this cookie disappears when you finish filling out an application, or searching a database.
- Disclosure to third parties.
- As a governmental agency, we are governed by public records laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Any information that we receive through use of our site is subject to the same provisions as information provided on paper. Otherwise, we do not share personal identifying information with any third party without your permission.
- We disclose only in aggregate form our statistical analyses or demographics of users to third parties.
- This information is not reported or used in any manner that would reveal personally identifiable information, and will not be released to any outside parties unless we are legally required to do so in connection with law enforcement investigations or other legal proceedings.
The City of Pittsburgh seeks to ensure that its website remains available to all users. In this vein, it has taken several steps to safeguard the integrity of its data and prevent unauthorized access to information it maintains, including but not limited to authentication, monitoring, auditing, and encryption.
Security measures have been integrated into the design, implementation and day-to-day practices of the entire operating environment as part of its continuing commitment to risk management. These measures are designed and intended to prevent corruption of data, block unknown or unauthorized access to our systems and information, and to provide reasonable protection of private information in our possession.
This information should not be construed in any way as giving business, legal, or other advice, or warranting as fail proof, the security of information provided via the City's website.
Unauthorized attempts to upload information or change information on this service are strictly prohibited and may be punishable under various statutes including, but not limited to, the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act.